Judge Blocks Wisconsin From Enforcing Voter Photo ID Requirement

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge David Flanagan ruled that Wisconsin’s new Republican-authored law requiring all voters to show photo identification to vote poses a “substantial burden” upon voters, and permanently barred it from taking effect. Flanagan explained that Wisconsin’s constitution bars the costly and difficult process of attaining photo identification from being an obstacle to voting.

“Act 23 addresses a problem which is very limited, if indeed it exists,” Judge David Flanagan wrote. “…Given the sacred, fundamental interest at issue, it is clear that Act 23, while perhaps addressing a legitimate concern, is not sufficiently narrow to avoid needless and significant impairment of the right to vote.”

Today, a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that 10 million people in states with Voter ID laws live more than 10 miles from state offices offering photo identification. In Wisconsin, no such offices are open on the weekends. The price of photo identification ranges from $8 to $25, which many people cannot easily afford. “It certainly looks and feels like a poll tax,” Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center, said of the new costs required to vote.

A study released earlier this year by the Brennan Center found that Voter ID laws could collectively disenfranchise 3 million people nationwide this year. ThinkProgress reported on 95-year-old Wisconsinite Florence Hessing, who was barred from voting because she was born via midwife and did not possess an acceptable birth certificate. A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study found that approximately 300,000 Wisconsinites lack photo identificatoin.


A spokeswoman for Wisconsin’s Department of Justice, which defended the law in court, said state lawyers are currently reviewing Flanagan’s decision but will likely appeal the ruling.

Ben Sherman